|| The Boston Globe
|| March 26, 2011
|| Karen Campbell
Jorma Elo’s choreography puts one in mind of someone who feels compelled to undercut his poetic eloquence with sly one-liners and sarcastic barbs. His work has a crystalline classical elegance that is continually subverted by a saucy wiggle of the hips, heads that dip and roll, robotic isolations. However, it doesn’t look pasted on for irony, but rather seems hard-wired into the very core of his aesthetic, and as showcased in the new “Elo Experience,’’ which premiered Thursday at the Boston Opera House, it’s riveting to watch.
Conceived as a world premiere presentation in two parts, “Elo Experience’’ weaves excerpts from seven of the choreographer’s ballets (three for Boston Ballet and four for other companies) into an evening-length sampler connected by newly choreographed interludes with a kind of fractured narrative thread. In effect, it’s a surrealistic trip through the choreographer’s creative “experience’’ over the past decade. This includes his past six years as resident choreographer for Boston Ballet, where he has invigorated the company’s repertoire with provocative works of quirky humor, edgy energy, and brilliant virtuosity while stretching the performers’ technical versatility.
Our charming tour guides are Larissa Ponomarenko and Jeffrey Cirio. They set the scene with cryptic snippets of spoken text (mostly about moonlight, sunshine, and being late) and unleash full-ensemble interludes to the music of Tchaikovsky, which get a little messy, tedious, and pretentiously contrived.
However, in their playful recurring duets and solos, Ponomarenko’s pristine line contrasts with Cirio’s quicksilver fluidity, energy coursing through his body in undulating rolls, his head swiveling as if on a turntable. Elo gives him some spectacular leaps that scissor and spiral, landing light as a feather into dizzying spins. He is simply sensational.
The first half is quite cohesive, fueled by the structural clarity of music by Vivaldi and Biber (all taped, alas). In excerpts from “Slice to Sharp,’’ created in 2006 for New York City Ballet, four couples connect sensuously. The women coil over and around their partners, backs arched, legs hyperextended at improbable angles. A section from “Lost on SLOW,’’ premiered by the Royal Danish Ballet in 2008, is highlighted by virile, athletic choreography for Bo Busby, Robert Kretz, and Sabi Varga.
The most substantial excerpt is from the exquisite “Plan to B,’’ premiered by Boston Ballet in 2004. It juxtaposes curving sculptural shapes arising from luxurious extensions with sharply articulated footwork and blistering turns. Lia Cirio back kicks so high her heel nearly grazes her head and falls into her partner’s arms, bouncing back up. Whitney Jensen impeccably unfurls a passé turn on demi-pointe, and John Lam sizzles in a solo of quickly shifting dynamics.
The second half doesn’t cohere as well but shows more of Elo’s choreographic range, including the exotic undulations and trembles of “Lost by Last’’ and the Mozart-driven “Brake the Eyes.’’ Despite one near trip, the dancers gave a gorgeous performance of sweeping duets with breathtaking lifts from “In On Blue.’’ In “Double Evil,’’ the propulsive energy of Philip Glass’s music was almost assaultive, but the romantic strains of Vladimir Martinov evoked a rare, if fleeting delicacy in Elo’s choreography that made me see the poet in him anew.